Navajo Natural Resources
The ancestral lands of the Navajo Nation are rich in natural resources. Their lands lay in northeastern New Mexico, southeastern Utah and northwestern Arizona. Although the land itself is arid, dry and, at times, inhospitable, beneath the dirt and rock lays uranium mines, coal mines, as well as oil and gas reserves. The Navajo lands also include millions of acres of timber that is responsibly harvested and helps to bring in revenue for the people of the Nation.
Mining Resources for the Navajo Nation
The Navajo reservation sits on about 17.2 million acres, which provide an abundant amount of natural resources including large reserves of coal, uranium, oil and gas. The uranium mines in and around Navajo lands were largely mined right after World War II when the United States was in a nuclear arms race with the former Soviet Union.
During this time, members of the Navajo tribe working in the mines were exposed to the radioactive material and the mines ended up polluting nearby lands because safety standards and regulations were ignored by the companies who owned the mines. Eventually, uranium mining was prohibited in 2005 after many workers and there families became sick and uranium spills contaminated land.
Vast reserves of coal also lay on the lands of the Navajo people and are still a major revenue source for the tribe. There are large coal mining operations on the reservation, which mine approximately 23 million tons of coal each year. This coal is shipped to plants to generate electricity across the U.S. The Navajo Nation uses it to generate electricity for their lands as well, but they are beginning to use more green energy production methods in order to lessen their dependence on coal.
Other Natural Resources
There are also large oil and gas reserves on the reservation as well, which earned the Navajo Nation approximately $156 million in fourth quarter revenues in 2013. Not only is it a major source of revenue for the tribe, it is also a major employer for the Navajo Nation. Along with these resources, there are also millions of acres of timber on their lands.
Forest products is also a major source of revenue, which is earned from the 4.5 million acres of Pinon Pine and Juniper trees, as well as over 500,000 acres of Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir. The revenue from these resources helps fund the operations of the Navajo Nation’s sovereign government.